If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?
Percy Bysshe Shelley – 1792-1822
In Ireland St Brigids’ Day or February 1st is considered to be the first day of Spring. St. Brigid is the 5th Century Patron Saint of Ireland and is also the the patron saint of milkmaids, beekeepers, blacksmiths. She was the daughter of an Irish Chieftain but broke with convention and established a monastic order of nuns in Kildare. Her feast day is still celebrated in Ireland today but like many of these festivals it has its roots in ancient Celtic mythology.
The festival of Imbolc celebrates the mid point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Traditionally as the days lengthen it is a time for looking forward and moving from darkness in to light. The word Imbolc derives from the Old Irish i mbolg meaning ‘in the belly’. In nature we see green shoots pushing through the cold hard ground and the arrival of new life in the form of lambs and calves on farms.
The feast is celebrated with special foods and the making of St. Brigids’ crosses said to protect the home and the land for the year ahead. Other traditions associated with this celebration include the creation of a straw girdle those who wore it would hope to conceive in the year ahead. A cloth ribbon left outside on the St. Brigid Eve was said to have healing powers and a visit to a holy well with a tradition of dressing wells and making votive offerings was auspicious at this time.
Spring in Chinese Medicine
In Traditional Chinese Medicine the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine states that ‘the supernatural forces of spring create wind in heaven and wood upon the earth’. Associated with Spring it represents the transition from Yin to Yang. The water element is associated with winter and represents the yin forces in nature The wood element emerges as the child of water. It links the earth with the sky and strives towards heaven. It symbolises birth and regeneration and is dynamic and powerful it can be creative and destructive and is hugely influential in the body.
Represented by the Liver and Gall Bladder organs it has a strong influence over all aspects of our lives. It provides strength through tendons and sinews and is responsible for cycles within the body. In women a healthy Wood Element is essential for a smooth flowing menstrual cycle and preparing the uterus to receive a fertilised embryo. It is responsible for moderating our moods and any disruption to the Wood Element can lead to disturbance of the heart as the Wood nourishes the Fire which is the element of the heart in the the traditional Five Element cycle.
The most significant disturbance to the Wood Element is caused by wind. A tree that is strong and has its roots well established has the capacity to withstand a storm and grow towards the heavens. It will be flexible and able to move freely and so nourishing the Wood element will help us weather storms and ensure creativity and bring forth the promise of new life in its many forms.